Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Making the Call

Last night, my new sponsee brought up an issue I wrestled with not long ago. Funny how that works.

She has a son not much younger than my daughter, and she's tired of calling. He doesn't call, ever, or send a card or gift on her birthday or Christmas. Sounds just like a conversation I had with my sponsor sometime around Thanksgiving.

I had decided I wasn't going to call anymore. I told my husband that, and he agreed. My daughter is not his daughter. But he has a son who used to do the same. So he stopped calling, and sending cards and gifts. Now his son calls. Heck, his son (my step son) calls me on my birthday.

If I stopped calling my daughter, it would not be to try to get her to change her behavior. That was one of the first lessons I learned in Al-Anon. I'm powerless over another person, and if my motive is to change their behavior, it's a bad idea.

So that wasn't my motive. I was just tired of having a one-way relationship. I had begun to feel like I was forcing the relationship and I should let my daughter be the one to decide if and when she wanted to have that relationship.

My sponsee said much the same thing.

I was certain I had made the right decision. I mentioned it to my sponsor, thinking she would be proud of me for having seen the light.

Instead, she said, "That's very selfish of you."

I should say that this isn't her memory of our conversation. But I remember it clearly (or at least I think I do) because I was so shocked. She's usually less pointed in her comments, but her reaction was immediate.

She said calling our kids is what good parents do. I didn't have to call my daughter every week, but I shouldn't stop calling.

Now, normally, when my sponsor gives me advice, I feel the sting of truth. I didn't this time. But I was willing to concede that my thinking is diseased and I can't always see things clearly on my own. Also, she had never steered me wrong. So I gave her the benefit of the doubt. I decided to call less often, but to continue to call. And that year, she actually called me at Christmas. I was delighted.

But I also prayed about it. And soon, God took the situation out of my hands. I can't call my daughter because there is no phone where she is living. She gave me a number where I could leave a message if something came up. Once, I got a call for her on my cellphone and I called the number and left a message. She may or may not have gotten it. She never called me back to let me know.

I'm a big advocate of having one sponsor and not confusing myself by polling all my friends, program or otherwise.

But in this case, since it's come up again, and involving someone other than me, I'm curious. If you have experience, strength or hope to share, I'm all ears.


  1. Well, I have NO idea if my experience is relevant. Please take what you like and leave the rest.

    I'm on the other end of the phone relationship you describe. My mum usually calls me and laments the fact that I'm not calling her. It creates a dynamic of guilt, in which I dread seeing her number on call-display, and avoid taking the call if I don't have the time or grace to deal with it.

    Sometimes we go through periods where she doesn't call as often. Eventually I then call her. I know my 'eventually' takes way too long for her. (It can take a month or two for me to feel the daughterly pull to call.)

    I've talked to my sponsor about this. No debate in her mind -- She says I should call more often. Period. So I try to. It's not always easy, but when I do, it usually feels like the right thing.

    "With that I'll pass," as we say at the end of a share, around here.

  2. I am the one initiating the text or email with my daughter and son, the other daughter does not respond. She is going through some of her own things. I continue to contact them once in awhile and then sometimes boom! I get the longest email full of info and telling me how much they like it that I continue to reach out to them or they leave a long phone message and it reinforces that I am doing a good thing to be consistent in my contacting them.

  3. Hi Kathy,
    Just my two cents. When she said "that is what good parents do." Is that in the Bible? That is the statement that sounded like something she lives by and placed on you.
    One thing I learned.....all leaders have clay feet. We are all capable of error.

    You said something powerful.....I usually feel the sting of truth, this time I didn't.

    Even my dear Dr. T. was not perfect. I disagreed a few times with him. He was so gracious, he let me. :)

    I pray God will show you the truth about all of this.


  4. I have so many friends that say their children don't call. Adult Children and some of these folks are in their 60s.

    I tell them NOT to call chasing them. Because they obvious are frustrated that their children don't call them back.

    When my two adults lived on their own I did not call them (now they are both renting downstairs from me).. but I told them to call me.. when they asked why I did not call them. I told them the truth they always seem so busy with their own interests as YOUNG ADULTS.. that I'll wait for them to feel free to call me.

    It worked great. Young Adults are so busy with so many of their pursuits.. and when they make the call themselves they are more at peace to talk. Deep down they still want us..

    My daughter had a drinking problem and did not call me 2.5 years ago for 8 months when I made her get her own place.

    I felt it was Tough Love and it did work in this case. She is doing great now at almost 24.

    It was actually peaceful with her not calling. She had to work on some stuff that I could not help her as her mother to get stronger.

    I remember what a minister said before I got married; your children come out of you but they don't belong to you....

    And I do know that everyone eventually COMES HOME.. if you make them feel guilty they will call less because of pressure.

    And too many parents need to get a life too; and not just have everything revolve around their adult children lives.

  5. Your sponsor is too funny. "Calling our kids is what good parents do." I don't know how many adjectives I can write to express my thoughts. Absurd. Stupid. Ridiculous. Shocking. Critical. I am surrounded by adults who sigh when their parents call. It's a drain to them. They're busy people. I see nothing wrong with respecting your daughter's life enough to allow her to call you when she has the time and space and desire. Setting young adults free is our gift to them. :)

  6. Two of my three adult children don't call much. I took that personally, like there must be something wrong with me. I backed off and hardly called them then because I was hurt.

    I decided that this year I would make an effort to be in touch with them because I am responsible for my part of the relationship instead of waiting for twenty somethings to be the mature one in the relationship! I have no control over whether or not they reciprocate and my motive isn't so they will. I just wanted some inner peace that I was doing my part instead of making it a tit for tat thing in my head.
    I call my mom once a week and sometimes twice. She never calls because she feels her kids live such busy lives that she would be intruding. I used to take that personally, too. LOL. Now I've just accepted that she won't be changing at 71 and I can't expect her to. I'm just glad she is still here for me to call.

  7. I read your comment on my blog. You are welcome (hugs).

    A sponsor is in al-anon for her own issues.. and not to be put on a pedestal. Ultimately you have to make the right decision for you. But be respectful due to the status quo of her having given so much to you.

    I got along great with ex-mother-in-law that way. I would still do what was right; but I did not have to let her know when she was dead wrong; she was so kind in most of her advise and so loving.

    But no one is always right; or right for your lifestyle. Too much pressure to be on a pedestal anyway.. lol.

    That is why we always say ESH (we only share from our own experience-strength-hope) and Take what you Like and Leave the Rest.

    And your sponsee will have to grow strong and not just lean on all you say either. Some things won't be right for her ultimately either..

    Before when a mentor said something totally off-based to me; I would get judgmental; and feel that this person was not such a good

    Now I still adore my mentors.. and know that.. it is MY EGO wanting them to be PERFECT for me all the time..

    I'm saying this all wrong.. I'm still working this out for me.

    I have mentors recently that I might be outgrowing .. more like peers now...........and I feel God will give me new Mentors to teach me new things now... that is right for ME individually (not because my other mentors are not right for me.. they were right up to a certain point.. ).

    They'll have now time to teach others.. and I'm more than peer now..and love them dearly.. but the mentor role is gone more and more..

    They probably have more to teach; but just not right for me but will be for someone else.

    hugs. (I'm so imperfect myself.. as it should be..only human).

  8. p.s. I did just write a long post today.. and there is a part about two of my mentors. I never officially had a sponsor. They each have their own issues as i do too.

  9. After my dad died; and before my mom passed away, I called my mom 5-6 times a week. I felt that she wanted me to reach out to her because she lived alone, and I was grateful she was alive and I could be there for her. It worked fine. My son does not call often enough; but I can't call him in his program (God helped with that one) so I have to wait until he is feeling peaceful or whatever he needs to call me. I email him when I want to talk, but he also can't reciprocate. I do believe young adult males (and to a lesser extent young adult females) don't deliberately avoid calling their parents, they are truly working on getting their lives together and they are busy. And honestly, that is what we raise them to do...grow up and take responsibility...sometimes I don't like the grown-up parts, though! :) And truthfully, when addiction and co-dependency get in the mix, it changes the dynamic a little bit!

  10. My experience has been different.
    I began therapy soon after my daughter left for college. Because I have been so immersed in my own issues, I have not been good about calling he, at all. If that makes me a bad mother, well I hope that isn't so. It has not been intentional. It's just what I needed to do - focus on myself - and I did it.

    She has mentioned it. We've talked about it. I have explained it and she seems to understand.

    The reason I bother to mention it (I almost didn't - read this yesterday and slept on the whole thing before responding) is because my daughter DOES call me. She is in grad school. She still calls home every few weeks, at least, and always on my birthday and was home for Christmas, for a night... and I think giving her that space was really what she needed to be able to look at our relationship in an adult way.

    So, maybe my unintentional actions have had the right reaction....

    I have three other children - one other in college (who I call about once a month if I don't hear from him first) and one who will begoing to college next fall. (My youngest is in eighth grade). I am making a conscious effort to give them all the space I gave the older one, now, not to manipulate them, but because I want to know that if they are spending time with me - in person or on the phone or even writing an email - it is because they want to.

    I was afraid I wouldn't be able to say this in a way that wasn't "preachy", and I'm not sure if I've managed or not... but here goes.

    Hope you hear from her soon, and I hope your sponsee also resolves the relationship. I think part of the problem is the pressure we put on them because we just love them so much and miss them and want to get that back... the motives are exactly right.